2023 Third Place


by Camilla Lambert

Grandma Thomas still gets out, leaning
on a stick, though she no longer relies
on tincture of nettle.
She comes on Esther by the sallows,
your sister took a nasty fall,
those stone steps by the bridge
I’ll pick her solomon’s seal,
good for lightening skin-shadows
medicine for concealing.

Esther thinks more like a hasty fist,
has no need yet of old wives’ healing;
it’s dark-haired Ned the blacksmith’s son she’s after.
She’ll be up on the moor
where streams twist and damselflies skim,
to fetch bog asphodel,
stir bright saffron petals into bubbling water.
Fifty times this way, fifty times that goes her song.
At the barn dance her braids come loose,
flick and shimmer with light.

Ned guards memories of kisses behind the stacked hay,
their murmurs That’s right, don’t stop.
Tomorrow he should go see his grandad
in the fusty room at Aunt Hannah’s.
Can the old man remember girls’ foibles,
tempting glances? Hannah swears
by the blue scent of rosemary,
breathe it in to leaven sadness with close remembrance.
There’s a bush by the forge, in full flower this week.